06 November 2019

1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference Youngsan University

1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference
Youngsan University

On October 4th, 2019, Youngsan University hosted their 1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference at their Yangsan Campus (Ulsan, South Korea). I was invited to present a paper for this conference.

Dr Sanko Lewis presenting at the
1st International Academic Taekwondo Conference,
Youngsan University

I titled my presentation "From Individual Heroes to National Performers: The Shift in Taekwondo's Peace Promotion Duty". Following is the abstract:

The writings of several of the early taekwondo pioneers connect taekwondo practice with peace promotion. These pioneers charged taekwondo practitioners with a duty to contribute to justice, defend the weak, and build a more peaceful world. National and international taekwondo organizations such as the Kukkiwon, World Taekwondo, and the International Taekwon-Do Federation have taken up the charge of peace promotion through taekwondo by means of transnational events, such as goodwill tours and joined taekwondo demonstrations by adversarial states (e.g. North and South Korea). These activities may be described as soft diplomacy initiatives and have seen some level of success. While these soft diplomacy activities are in line with the goal of peace promotion that the early pioneers advocated, they are qualitatively different from what the pioneers advocated. Originally, the responsibility of peace promotion was on the individual taekwondo practitioner, who ought to cultivate moral character, courage, and martial art skill in order to standup for justice and defend the weak. With the current use of taekwondo for soft diplomacy, the responsibility of peace promotion has shifted from the individual practitioner to the corporate, i.e. the governing and national bodies. Instead of focusing on issues surrounding justice and the protection of the weak, these corporate bodies focus on geopolitical cooperation, mediated through cultural exchange activities in the form of taekwondo demonstrations, involving activities such as poomsae performances and board-breaking that require little actual courage or serious personal risk to the individual practitioners. The charge to safeguard justice and physically defend the weak, which are acts of true courage that may have serious personal risk, as was envisioned by the taekwondo pioneers, is mostly ignored.

The article still needs some work before I can submit it with an academic journal for publication.

The conference included two other well established taekwondo researchers, Dr. John Johnson who spoke on "Mudo within North Korean Taekwondo Pedagogy" and Dr. Steven Capener, who addressed "How Korea Created and then Destroyed the Martial Sport of Taekwondo". Dr. John Frankl and Dr Udo Moenig took part in the discussion session. Drs. Johnson, Capener, Moenig, and myself (Lewis), are the four non-Korean academics living in Korea, working at universities here, and doing research in Taekwondo. Dr Frankl's martial art focus is Brazilian Jiujitsu.

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